Toyota has made a number of small but effective changes to the redesigned 2012 Camry. The result is that the Camry has moved back up to be a top choice for a midsize sedan.
The 2012 Toyota Camry has been improved in almost every detail, which is excellent news since the previous model was disappointing in many regards. On the whole, this may look like the same package, but it's been massaged and redesigned to bring it up to the standards of usability, safety and interior construction set by the competition, and then retuned and restyled to be a little more expressive. But as before, durability and reliability are still the key attributes meant to set the 2012 Toyota Camry apart from its rivals.
You'll notice that the new Camry offers improved versions of last year's engines: a 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. Both engines feature a six-speed automatic transmission to deliver better fuel economy. The four-cylinder returns an EPA-estimated 35 highway mpg, while the V6 achieves 30 mpg on the highway. And yet, despite this thriftiness, the Camry's engines are notably eager to deliver swift acceleration when you need it. There's also a Camry Hybrid, covered in a separate review.
Within the cabin, the front seats have been redesigned to be more supportive and repositioned to afford more rear legroom. However, the bigger difference inside can be seen in design and quality. The old Camry suffered from subpar interior materials and a rather uninspired design. The new Camry reverses this downward trend, especially in the SE and XLE trims, with dramatically improved build quality and a pleasing selection of thoughtfully chosen trim types, textures and materials. Meanwhile, a new, well-designed touchscreen electronics interface and several high-tech features help set it apart from the pack.
Toyota has also set out to address a long-running complaint about the Camry being boring to drive. Suspension improvements have been made to enliven the Camry's handling dynamics and make the ride more composed. It's not entirely effective -- numb steering and a general disconnected feel make the Camry a less desirable car to drive than most rivals. The exception to this is the SE, which isn't so much a sport model, but rather the one that manages to bring the Camry's driving dynamics up to par for the class.
In total, the Toyota Camry is once again one of the more appealing midsize family sedans. Still, that class is better than ever and we suggest checking out the competition thoroughly before settling on a Camry. The Honda Accord and Mazda 6 continue to set the standard for those who want their car to feel responsive, while the Hyundai Sonata offers more style, comparable refinement and stellar value. Meanwhile, the new Volkswagen Passat is bigger and cheaper than ever while still maintaining its European flavor. The Camry may have corrected many of its predecessor's faults, but its improved competition means choosing one still isn't the slam-dunk it once was.